Category Archives: Drugs



[Allen Ginsberg – photo by Benedict Fernandez, December 1963]

Allen’s November 1966 Atlantic Monthly piece on marijuana –The Great Marijuana Hoax: First Manifesto to End The Bringdown was recently re-published as Time Travel: Allen Ginsberg on Marijuana Tourism, 1966, with a brief introduction by Daniel Fromson. “Ginsberg offers a portrait”, Fromson writes, “of America’s pre-Summer of Love fear of marijuana, dismisses images of crazed “dope fiends” as “palpable poppycock,” and explains why smoking weed in the U.S. often induces paranoia (“The anxiety was directly traceable to fear of being apprehended and treated as a deviant criminal; put thru the hassle of social disapproval, ignominious Kafkian tremblings in vast court buildings coming to be judged, the helplessness of being overwhelmed by force or threat of deadly force and put in brick & iron cell”)”. Lester Grinspoon’s article on this and further observations on Allen’s marijuana use (and ultimate transcendence?) can be found here.

The legalization of marijuana? – or, at the very least, some hysteria-free understanding about the drug? Well, over forty years have passed and the debate still continues. We direct you to the Marijuana Policy Project for the latest in that struggle and for a laudable source of clear-headed information.

Clearly, it’s not just about pot, it’s about drugs (and individual freedoms). There’s an interesting sound-clip from NPR in 1971 where Allen and his father debate drug law and drug policy. And here’s another succinct statement.

1971 was just one year before the publication of Alfred McCoy’s The Politics of Heroin In South East Asia, a hugely important book to which Allen significantly contributed. His poem, “CIA Dope Calypso“, written right around this time, masterfully tracks the players. Several years later, New York Times correspondent C.L.Sulzberger offered him a formal apology (“I remember when you first suggested I look into this I thought you were full of beans (but) Indeed you were right..”)

Engagement with Burroughs and Huncke and others gave Allen a significant drug education. Turning to the psychedelics, one immediately thinks of The Yage Letters, and Howl (written, at least partially, on peyote), not to mention “Mescaline“, “Magic Psalm”, “Lysergic Acid”,etc. By the time that the ‘sixties rolled around, well, the key figure was, of course, Timothy Leary (see Peter Conners recent study). Another classic document of the times has recently been exhumed, Allen’s 1968 review of Leary’s Politics of Ecstasy in the Village Voice (it is also, as is Allen’s marijuana essay, included in Deliberate Prose). “For he took on himself the noble task of announcing the evidence of his senses despite the scary contumely of fellow academicians, the dispraising timorous irony of scientific “professionals”, the stupidity, meanness self-serving cowardice and hollow vanity of bureaucratic personnel…” A moving musical (sic) defense of Leary can also be found on “Tale of The Tribe”, Allen’s contribution to Jim Wilson‘s 1997’s Beyond Life With Timothy Leary.

Finally, here’s Allen, talking to Tom Clark, in 1966, looking back, in The Paris Review interview: “So – summing up then – drugs were useful for exploring perception, sense perception, and exploring different possibilities and modes of consciousness, and exploring the different versions of petites sensations and useful for composing, sometimes, while under the influence”. The full context of the comments can be found here (tho’ note also Allen’s follow-up letter of explanation).

Oh and lets not forget one of the most pernicious drugs of them all!


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Filed under Alfred McCoy, Allen Ginsberg, Daniel Fromson, Drugs, Herbert Huncke, Jim Wilson, Lester Ginspoon, Louis Ginsberg, New York Times, Timothy Leary, Tom Clark

>Friday’s Weekly Round-Up 17

[Allen Ginsberg, QE2, Albany, NY 11/29/90 – photo by Dan Wilcox]

Dan Wilcox is the host of the “Third Thursday Poetry Night” at the Social Justice Center in Albany, upstate New York, and is a member of the poetry performance group “3 Guys from Albany”. As a photographer, he claims to have “the world’s largest collection of photos of unknown poets”. That may or may not be true, but he also has fine snaps of some familiar faces. Numero Cinq on-line magazine graciously showcases his Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and More” portfolio.

Rick Schober in Massachusetts is working on an interesting project. He recently put up a promotional video about it. His Vox Redux Press plans to be publishing The Whole Shot: Collected Interviews With Gregory Corso. The video gives a short overview of Corso’s life as well as details about the book.

AG, June 2, 1966. From a footnote sent, following his interview (with Tom Clark) to “the readers of the Paris Review”:
“..I tried small doses of LSD twice in secluded tree and ocean cliff haven at Big Sur. No monster vibration, no snake universe hallucinations. Many tiny jeweled violet flowers along the path of a living brook that looked like Blake’s illustration for a canal in grassy Eden: huge Pacific watery shore, Orlovsky waves, titanic cliffs that Wordsworth mentioned in his own Sublime, great yellow sun veiled with mist hanging over the planet’s oceanic horizon. No harm. President Johnson that day went into the Valley of Shadow operating room because of his gall bladder and Berkeley’s Vietnam Day Committee was preparing anxious manifestos for our march toward Oakland police and Hells Angels. Realizing that more vile words from me would send out physical vibrations into the atmosphere that might curse poor Johnson’s flesh and further unbalance his soul, I knelt on the sand surrounded by masses of green bulb-headed Kelp vegetable-snake undersea beings washed up by last night’s tempest, and prayed for the President’s tranquil health..”
We note, of course, in passing, the death last week of Owsley Stanley.

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Dan Wilcox, Drugs, Gregory Corso, Owsley Stanley, Rick Shober

>Allen and m(e)


[Allen Ginsberg, Peter Hale, Chris Ide at Naropa, July 4 picnic, Boulder, CO 1986. photo c. Steve Miles]
Speaking of Allen encounters, and we were. Here’s Peter Hale’s recollection of his first-meeting with Allen:

“I was a student at Naropa Institute in Boulder Colorado taking classes at their summer writing program in 1985. I was more a fan of (William) Burroughs at the time and knew very little about Allen. I was stopping by Burroughs’ summer apartment (as one could do, those days at Naropa) and had just missed him, but Allen was there cleaning up the place. We’d met a few times before, but this time I had him alone! Since he had quite a reputation around Boulder for always being on the make, I feared I might be warding him off but instead, since I’d read little poetry, he sat me down and gave me a reading list and suggested I sit in on his classes.

A few weeks later we did e (ecstacy) together. Gregory Corso had given Allen some, and it was just about to be made illegal here in the States. Allen had a little left and suggested we try it. He always started any drug, especially psychedelic/psychotropic type with 45 minutes of sitting meditation, Zen style. He definitely did not take this sort of thing lightly. Sitting next to old bard, Allen Ginsberg on the meditation cushion when the e kicks in about twenty minutes in, now that’s a life-changing moment! Allen was confused as to why it was called “ecstacy”, and insisted “empathy” more accurate.

It is also worth checking out the rest of the interview (about the Howl movie and more) at Dazed Digital

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Beats, Drugs, Howl, James Franco, Naropa, Peter Hale

>Allen Parle En Francais

>Most people are aware of Jack Kerouac’s French-speaking background. In 1967, he appeared on the French service of the Canadian Broadcasting Service on the program Le Sel de la Semaine, interviewed by Fernand Seguin,

but perhaps less well-known is Allen’s more-than-serviceable French. Here in this rare clip from Jean Michel Humea’s 1965 movie Viva Dada, he can be heard discussing the relationship of poetry and drugs. The interview takes place in the American Library in Paris, standing alongside him is a surprisingly quiet Gregory Corso

Gregory’s delightful Italian may be sampled here

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Beat History, Beats, Drugs, French, Gregory Corso, Italian, Jack Kerouac

>Timothy Leary’s 90th Birthday

[Timothy Leary, Los Angeles March 1992. If you look closely you can see Allen in the mirror taking the photo. c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

In celebration, here‘s some vintage Leary audio from 1967 recorded at Alan Watts’ Houseboat Summit, that includes Leary, Watts, Allen and Gary Snyder.

Keep a lookout for Peter Conners’ White Hand Society The Psychedelic Partnership of Timothy Leary & Allen Ginsberg due out any day now from City Lights. It includes the entire transcript for the above “Hoseboat Summit” as it was printed in the San Francisco Oracle. While we’re on psychedelics (!), here’s a brief snippet of Allen recounting something about the drug’s history.

Following the subject a little further, we’ve just nabbed this nifty trailer for Conrad Rooks’ film Chappaqua that might well leave your senses reeling!

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Filed under Alan Watts, Allen Ginsberg, Conrad Rooks, Drugs, Gary Snyder, Peter Conners, Timothy Leary

>Village Voice Clip Job: Allen Ginsberg Explains Timonthy Leary

[Timothy Leary psychedelic research pioneer and Neal Cassady first meeting at Millbrook N.Y. in Ken Kesey-Merry Pranksters’ “Further” bus which Neal’d driven crosscountry S.F. to N.Y. via Texas before Fall 1964 presidentiad, with “”A vote For Goldwater is a Vote for Fun”” logo painted large across bus side, L.S.D. cool-aid pitcher in icebox. Neal scratching amphetamine itch in his driver’s palm. (Ginsberg Caption) photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate. licensing via Corbis]

Another great one from the Village Voice ‘Clip Jobs’ series:

Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
December 12, 1968, Vol. XIV, No. 9

[This essay was subsequently published in Allen Ginsberg’s Deliberate Prose: Selected Essays 1952-1995. Ed. Bill Morgan]

Remarks on Leary’s Politics of Ecstasy
by Allen Ginsberg

By the late ’40s of this memory Century the people I knew best and loved the most had already broken through the crust of old Reason & were dowsing for some Supreme Reality, Christmas on Earth Rimbaud said, Second Religiousness according to Spengler’s outline of civilization declining through proliferation of non-human therefore boring technology; Blake had called “O Earth O Earth return!” centuries before, echoing the ancient gnostic prophecy that Whitman spelled out for America specifically demanding that the Steam-engine “be confronted and met by at least equally subtle and tremendous force-infusion for purposes of spiritualization, for the pure conscience, for genuine aesthetics, and for absolute and primal manliness and womanliness –” Ezra Pound’s mind jumped to diagnose the dimming of the world’s third Eye: “With Usura the line grows thick.” Continue >>

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Drugs, Neal Cassady, Timothy Leary, Village Voice

>Village Voice Clip Job – Congress Drops Acid with Allen Ginsberg


These Village Voice ‘Clipjob’ posting are and endless source of entertainment these days, and a real reminder of how some things have changed, while others haven’t.

“Congress Drops Acid with Allen Ginsberg” covers Allen’s 1966 testimony to a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on his own experiences with LSD in an attempt to dispel government disinformation that was proliferating at the time.

I’m here to tell you about my personal experiences,” he began softly, “and am worried that without sufficient understanding and sympathy for personal experience laws will be passed that are so rigid that they will cause more harm than the new LSD that they try to regulate.”

read full clip >>

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Drugs, Village Voice